Thursday, 26 August 2010

Festival Food

The life of a festival reviewer can take many forms - a regular routine goes out of the window as days can start at 2.00pm and not end until 10 or 11 in the evening. Suffice to say a balanced diet can also suffer. Still, I tell myself that all the exercise I’m doing running from one venue to another is burning off the unprecedented amount of carbohydrates I’m probably consuming this month. Indeed random eating in venue bars and quintessential Edinburgh establishments are all part and parcel of being at the festival. It sits happily alongside using your fringe programme as protection from the rain and consuming all your drinks (including wine) in plastic cups.

The other night we had legendary Negociants’ nachos for dinner after a splendid evening of vintage Edinburgh festival comedy. A while ago I wrote a somewhat literary post about this place and I thought while I’m in the midst of writing a few longer festival related blog posts I’d recycle it so to speak, here. In some ways it is a bit of a continuation of the many Edinburgh insights I’ve come to write on this blog.

Image by Dora Petherbridge

Negociants’ Nachos

Flanking Bristo Square, Negociants gently nurses the art students' quarter, and by day the faint hum of the skater boys in the square are its musical accompaniment. By night the tables and chairs outside are surrounded by artsy student revellers swaddled in paisley print scarves as they usher themselves into its basement nightclub Medina, the throb of the sound system under their feet.

Although overshadowed by McEwan Hall's austerity, its faint bohemian quality still sits well with the burgh's darker Calvinistic history. At the weekend Negociants is open into the witching hour, historically the time when Auld Reekie's less savoury grave digging characters got all their best work done. Tonight, although its cold and faintly wet there's not so much as a shovel in sight. But this bar's interesting mix of clientele surely come with their own stories.

Across from our table there is a tall lady huddled over her laptop. She sips from a perspiring glass of white wine. On her knee rests a Chanel handbag curled over like a resting, gentle lap dog. The scene is almost achingly Parisian if we discount the less subtle nods Negociants' decor makes to its more southern European sisters. The wicker chairs and potted plants, the terracotta hues and chalk boards give off a Latin Tapas feel, while the eclectic mix of magazine covers, black and white photographs of models and movie stars pasted to the ceiling give the look of a funky late night New York haunt.

And it's in this mode that Negociants really comes into its own, for it lends itself well to the shabby funkiness of the last place open in town. A place where the clubbers can come down from their highs over curly fries, powdered with cayenne pepper and washed down with coffee. This is where, safe from the metropolis, the late night writers, insomniacs, the people with nowhere to go and the outsiders can congregate. They can even have fish finger sandwiches if they like.

And if you are a regular you know there's only one thing really worth ordering on the menu. Piled high, greasy and carbohydrate laden, the Nachos fly out the kitchen's hatch to the tune of the bell being tapped to summon the waitress. They are an un-showy creation, but not unlike the establishment they have a charm; the comforting finger food shared between a couple of friends over bottled beer or glasses of totally drinkable, always crisp, white wine.

Dora's fringe snapshot for the day. The colourful lampshades are so pretty.

Image by Dora Petherbridge

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